CINCINNATI, OH (March 10, 2017) – Three rare Malayan tiger cubs, all female, have been cared for by Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s nursery staff since they were born on February 3, 2017, and ignored by their mother. Their care team now includes the Zoo’s four-legged, resident nursery companion and former nanny to several Zoo babies, Blakely the Australian shepherd. The six-year-old super dog has been called into action to provide snuggling, comfort and a body to climb.
“He’s more than just a large, warm pillow for the cubs. Blakely is the adult in the room. He teaches them proper tiger etiquette by checking them when they’re getting too rough or aggressive,” said Dawn Strasser, head of Cincinnati Zoo’s nursery staff. “This is something that their human surrogates can’t do.”
The cubs, named Chira (because she was treated by a chiropractor), Batari (which means goddess) and Izzy (which means promised by God,) would have received similar cues from their mom. Since being with her is not an option, Blakely is the next best thing. His baby-rearing resume includes experience with cheetahs, an ocelot, a takin, a warthog, wallabies, skunks, and bat-eared foxes. Last year, to recognize Blakely’s nurturing nature, the City of Cincinnati proclaimed October 19 to be Blakely Day!
“My team can feed and care for the tiger cubs, but we can’t teach them the difference between a play bite and one that means ‘watch out’. So, that’s Blakely’s job,” said Strasser. “Just a little time with him at this early age will help them learn behaviors that will come in handy when they meet tigers at other zoos in the future.”
The cubs will move to the Zoo’s Cat Canyon this summer after they have received their last round of immunizations. Visitors may catch a glimpse of them with their canine chaperone through the nursery suite windows for the next few weeks. They may outgrow him after that!